An employee was recently killed after a bridge crane collided with a raised mobile elevating work platform (MEWP) that the employee was working from, when the remote control for the bridge crane was inadvertently operated by the employee, resulting in the MEWP overturning.
Remote controls or transmitting units, including those configured through smart phones and associated apps, are regularly used to operate plant in many industries including construction, logistics, mining, agriculture and forestry. The operation of these items can bring plant or the items that the plant is handling in close proximity to persons. Should a remote control device be inadvertently operated or activated it can place persons at risk of serious injury or death.
Recommended ways to control risks
Employers and self-employed persons should:
- Where possible, ensure that a function enable switch is incorporated into the design of the remote control device. A function enable switch ensures that an additional input into the remote control must be made before the desired function can occur. The function enable switch could be in the form of a hold bar, trigger, button or pull-to-operate design in addition to the function control
- Set the automatic power off (where available) to the shortest time that is practical to avoid inadvertent activation of the remote control
- Require employees to switch off or deactivate remote controls after use
- Regularly undertake analysis to ensure that the operating frequencies of the remote controls do not affect other remote controlled plant or equipment at the workplace
- Ensure that buttons on remote controls are recessed or protected, and those fitted with joysticks or levers have rollover bars fitted
- Ensure that all controls that cause the plant to move, return to a neutral position once released
- Take measures to prevent unauthorised use, such as ensuring that remote controls are locked away in a secure location when not in use, or utilising remote controls with a Personal Identification Numbers feature, so that they can only function when the correct code is initially entered
- Ensure that remote controls are not placed on the floor or at a location where they can be knocked or stepped on, such as providing a holder or designated storage location for the remote control
- Ensure that the location at which the operator is operating the remote control is designated for the purpose, free of tripping hazards and provides adequate line-of-sight of the activity being undertaken
- Ensure that the operator does not simultaneously operate the remote control and move to another location. To avoid inadvertent operation of the remote control, the operator should isolate the equipment or switch off the remote control prior to repositioning themselves
- Ensure that the remote controls are set-up, paired, inspected, maintained and operated in accordance with the manufacturers' specifications.
Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, employers must, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees and independent contractors. This includes providing or maintaining plant or systems of work that are safe and without risks to health, so far as is reasonably practicable.
Employers must eliminate any risk associated with plant, or if not reasonably practicable, reduce the risk so far as reasonably practicable by substituting the plant with plant that has a lower level of risk, or isolating the plant from persons, or using engineering controls.
Employers must also eliminate, or if not reasonably practicable, reduce the risk of powered mobile plant overturning, the operator being ejected from the powered mobile plant, and powered mobile plant colliding with other powered mobile plant so far as is reasonably practicable. Powered mobile plant must also be fitted with a warning device if there is a likelihood of powered mobile plant colliding with other powered mobile plant.
Employers must provide employees with the necessary information, instruction, training or supervision to enable them to do their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health.
Employers must also ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that people other than employees are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the employer's conduct.
AS1418 – Cranes, hoists and winches – Safe design - Series
AS2550 – Cranes, Hoists and winches – Safe use – Series